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Missing Secret Service Messages Not New To I.G.; Democrats Calling Out Inspector General's Dereliction Of Duty; Jared Kushner And Steve Bannon, The Tom And Jerry In Trump's White House; Voters Looking At Big Issues; Russia Exploits Sudan's Gold To Fund War. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 29, 2022 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Tonight, there are new questions about missing Secret Service text messages around the January 6th insurrection. Multiple sources telling CNN that the top watchdog at the homeland security department actually knew about those missing texts way back in May of 2021. That's more than a year before he alerted the select committee.

I want to bring in CNN's Kara Scannell, former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, and former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe. Nice to see all of you this evening. Also, he is the author of "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump." Written by our guest here tonight, Andrew McCabe.

Kara, let me begin with you here. What are you learning about these missing text messages?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Good evening, Laura. This is new reporting from my colleagues Whitney Wild, Zach Cohen, and Jeremy Herb. And what sources tell them is the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security knew as early as May of 2021 that some of these Secret Service text messages were missing.

That is seven months earlier than we had known that he was informed of this and more than a year before he informed the House select committee investigating January 6th. Now the Secret Service says that is due to a data retention, a data reset issue that they had when they collected these phones from the government employees, and they were doing some data migration.

But this is just one of many new details we're learning that raised more questions than answers about these text messages. The Washington Post reporting that messages belonging to the acting secretary, Chad Wolf, and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli were also missing leading up to January 6th. You know, just a lot of questions here. And we have some calls from democrats for the inspector general to resign and for the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation.

COATES: I mean, Andrew, just hearing that, I mean, I know about data migrations. I understand what a reset would be, and you're going to hand in certain government phones. I understand all of that. But what Kara is talking about, why would the inspector general wait a year before telling the January 6th select committee about the missing texts.

I mean, is this something that you view as incompetence or something that's overlooked or are you sensing something more nefarious? What is your gut telling you?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Laura, it raises really significant questions about the competence and the effectiveness of the DHS, inspector general, Mr. Cuffari.


This is not the first time that we've had reason to question his approach to these issues, even when he notified the committee of the missing texts of the 24 Secret Service agents whose texts had been requested by the January 6th committee, that notification came late.

Now we're learning that these notifications were much, much later in the game than we initially heard, and on top of that, you have his original I.G. investigation into the Secret Service's performance on January 6th, which is a pretty standard thing that I.G.'s do. They look at the agencies that are responsible for it to see how they're doing their job.

And then into the middle of this mix, he threw down that letter about a week ago that said he was opening a criminal investigation into the loss of these agents' text -- text messages. So, this has really been about as confused as it could possibly be. It raises questions about his competence, the way that he's executed the office and quite frankly, whether or not he is the right person to move forward on this very critical investigation that goes to some important information that's right at the center of the January 6th committee's investigation. These questions need to be answered or he needs to move on.

COATES: It's an important point that you raise, the idea of this would be the person who would be continuing in an investigation, not just simply looking backwards at what once happened, but somebody who would play a role in the continuity of an investigation or oversight over one.

I mean, John Dean, you are well aware of the consequences what we're talking about. In White House call logs, we know the call logs are missing from when the capitol was under attack. I mean, there weren't even any entries in the presidential diary and the White House photographer wasn't even allowed to take pictures.

And now we're hearing about missing text messages from homeland security leaders and Secret Service. What do you make about all this? There's one thing to talk about a coincidence, yes, it might happen, but are you thinking that's what's happening here?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is a striking level of incompetence, so striking that it has to look intentional to me. I'm looking, for example, I've been talking for months ever since we first learned of what had happened to the presidents' daily diary that there were big gaps.

Well, I understand how that diary is assembled, and the Secret Service is a huge input into that collected daily activities contemporaneously they're done, and it's collected by a man or woman who's sent over from the National Archives, not on the White House staff but on the archive staff who prepares this diary every day. And typically, it's circulated internally. Later it becomes a very important historical document.

Seven hours, that's who I'd want to talk to. Who wasn't telling the person who collected the diary what was going on? That diarist asks constantly to stay updated. So, is he in the dining room? Is he in the Oval Office? Has he gone up to the residence? That person wants to know and that's logged. And secretaries also input -- this isn't actually going to be that difficult to assemble, and that's where I'd start that investigation.

COATES: A really important point that block of time, I mean, talking about the 187 minutes, but as you point out, the diary is talking about it in a very different way that would be revelatory or at least illuminating in some way.

Kara, I want to go back to you. Because here's a reminder of what acting A.G. Richard Donoghue testified that Trump ordered Ken Cuccinelli to do. Listen to this.


RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Cuccinelli was on the phone, he was with the DHS at that time. I was on the speaker phone and the president essentially said, Ken, I'm sitting here with the acting attorney general. He just told me it's your job to seize machines and you're not doing your job.


COATES: So, these texts could actually hold some critical information for investigators, right, if that's all part of it?

SCANNELL: Yes, I mean, if you remember this meeting took place on December 31st. It was on New Year's Eve. So just, you know, a week before January 6th. And Trump was still pushing this idea of trying to get the Department of Justice to announce some investigations into voter fraud to seize these voting machines.

And obviously, you know, Bill Barr when he was attorney general had said publicly there was no voter fraud, he then resigned, and the acting attorney general and his -- and the deputy attorney general were both in these meetings with Trump saying that there was nothing to this and that they were not going to do this.

So clearly, it's interesting here, the Department of Homeland Security never did seize any voting machines, but what happened after Cuccinelli received that phone call? You know, who did he contact? Did he double back and check with the Department of Justice to see if they actually had authorized this? Trump told him was of course false?


So, certainly, a lot of data to mine there with investigators. We do know that Cuccinelli did meet with the House select committee several months ago. It's unclear if they got into any of these details, and if they had any other side of text messages he may have sent where some of this data could possibly be recovered. But it's certainly something that investigators will be interested in.

COATES: I mean, what's frustrating if you're interviewing somebody, right, as a prosecutor or an investigator more broadly, Andrew, you're going to want to have the lay of the land. You don't want to, as you would in a trial, you don't really want to ask questions you don't have any idea of what they might say. You want to have them open ended. But you also want to know if there's ways to test their credibility. Is somebody is pointing a fuss one at you and you want to have information that could corroborate or undermine what they're saying.

But on this point, Andrew, Chad Wolf actually claims that he handed over his phone intact when he resigned in the days after the insurrection. So, what questions does that raise for you if that's, in fact, the truth?

MCCABE: Well, Laura, the answers we've been given by the institutions here are wholly insufficient. So, the Secret Service has said in response to the missing agent's text, well, we did our device transfer and we sent out an e-mail to everybody and told them to back up their own texts, which is on its face absolutely ridiculous.

You don't crowd source compliance in data retention. And now with these two high level DHS executives, Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, it is conceivable that Chad Wolf left at the department, turned in his phone and walked away as anybody would do. But it's inconceivable that the Department of Homeland Security, which is the parent organization over at CISA, the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency.

The agency that goes out every day and advises private sector entities on how to back up their data, you know, in order to be resilient against cyber-attacks, it is -- it is impossible to believe that they didn't have some sort of a data retention program in place that would have captured Chad Wolf's data on his phone and preserved it for exactly this reason.

It is an important document historically, and as you said, it's essential to be able to ask him questions about what he knew, who he talked to, what they discussed around these events in question.

COATES: I mean, it's really the idea of it being conceivable. John Dean, I'll ask you. I mean, Wolf is one of multiple Trump cabinet officials. Look at the screen there, all these people who have been talking or negotiating to talk with the select committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney said just last week that the dam has begun to break. Is that what's happening here?

Because most of these people were in Trump's inner circle until the end and would have seen and heard a lot. What do you attribute this sudden influx of people more willing, ready, and able as, well, they were always ready and perhaps able to do so? What do you attribute this new influx to?

DEAN: Well, obviously they're seeing their colleagues who are coming forward, people like Cassidy Hutchinson, and making an impact. Some of these people while they believe in Trump, they certainly didn't believe in some of the conduct, and that could be the reason propelling some of them.

Others, I'm curious if there's a similar picture that's going on at the U.S. attorney's office where people who are concerned about crime are down there trying to get up at the front of the line and make sure they're cooperating and not going to become targets.

COATES: I do wonder what those sorts of flowcharts look like on those particular boards at the U.S. attorney's office figuring out who they're talking to and when. Obviously, far more of a private matter with the grand jury if it's ever to be impaneled.

DEAN: Yes.

COATES: Kara, John, Andrew, nice to see you tonight, all your expertise was so invaluable tonight, I appreciate it.

We've also got new details emerging about the DOJ's January 6th investigation, and here's the critical question. Or maybe one of the critical questions. Will A.G. Garland seek to indict Donald Trump? We'll discuss, next.



COATES: So, all eyes are on the attorney general as more details emerge over the DOJ's focus on the former president and those in his most inner circle. Merrick Garland could soon be faced with the historic decision of whether or not to indict a former president, Donald Trump. And though justice is supposed to be blind, there are questions over whether the potentially earthshaking political consequences will weigh in on his decision.

Joining me now to discuss, former attorney adviser in the DOJ Office of Legal counsel, Erica Newland. She is also the co-author of an article at the New York review of books titled "The Attorney General's Choice."

Erica, nice to see you here tonight. Thank you for joining us.

Listen, in the 1970s we know following Watergate, President Ford pardoned Nixon before he could be prosecuted, arguing that it was -- it was needed to heal the country, but even then, it was a very deeply controversial decision. And I'm wondering from today's perspective, or maybe even lessons learned, can worrying about healing the nation, is that a viable concern that the DOJ ought to be thinking about at this juncture?

ERICA NEWLAND, FORMER ATTORNEY ADVISER, DOJ OFFICE OF LEGAL COUNSEL: It is not a viable concern for the Department of Justice to be thinking about right now. And it was not a viable concern for the Department of Justice to be thinking about in the 1970s as the Watergate prosecution were heating up.

As you mentioned, it was President Ford who issued the pardon here. The Department of Justice has one job, to determine whether -- as you know as well as anyone, Laura, to determine whether prosecutable crimes have occurred. And if they have, to move forward with a prosecution.

Doing some type of national interest determination here figuring out what would heal the country, that's the president's job, and to do that with respect to Trump would really be preemptively pardoning him and taking that determination from the president when the Constitution assign it is to him.


COATES: That's interesting. The idea of preemptively pardoning the president by essentially saying because you were once the president, you'll never be able to have this and take it out of Biden's hands. I wonder if Biden would like to have that sort of political smoothing and not have to have that decision. One must wonder.

But then again, to push back on the notion, I mean, look, after all we've learned, isn't it possible that a decision not to prosecute could also anger just as many Americans as a move to indict? You get the sense of damned if you do, damned if you don't which is not un- foreign to the DOJ.

NEWLAND: It's not, but it's the president's job to make that determination. George Washington when he was describing his decision around pardons for those who engaged in a whiskey rebellion. He said it was his role to determine what the public good is.

The president is accountable to the American people, the election in a way that the attorney general is not, and it's also his job to have his finger on the pulse of the American people in a way that that's not the role of the attorney general in our system. Whether he --

COATES: Excuse me, go ahead, Erica, finish your point, please.

NEWLAND: I was just saying whether he likes it or not, that's Biden's job.

COATES: Well, you know, one of the things that Attorney General Merrick Garland has said and I want to remind everyone what he said earlier this week about no one being above the law. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We pursue justice without fear or favor. We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6th, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another accountable.


COATES: Now, he of course said this at his confirmation hearing. He reiterated it quite, you know, charismatically last week with Lester Holt again. And it's true that obviously no one should be above the law, but he is a political appointee in the sense of serving at the pleasure of the president of the United States.

And for that very reason it's often interpreted that they're going to be considering some part of the politics here. Given that reality that we all live in a really political world and thinking about that, is it too sort of pollyannish to even intimate that they never consider public opinion.

NEWLAND: The principles of federal prosecution, which you're very familiar with within the U.S. attorney manuals, explain how the department should consider questions beyond just whether a crime has been committed. Would prosecution serve a substantial federal interest? Are there other effective prosecutions, are there alternatives to prosecutions?

And here, you know, it seems pretty clear that if a crime has been committed, then the principles dictate that that prosecution should go forward.

COATES: I mean, the idea and you're right to point those out, the notion of you can consider those aspects of it, but you have to do that balancing, which is going to weigh, hence the lady justice and the scales of justice always balancing all of these things. Erica, nice to speak with you this evening. Thank you so much.

NEWLAND: Thanks so much, Laura.

COATES: Look, lies, leaks and a quote, "toxic," and quote, "presence." Jared Kushner unveiling his West Wing war with Steve Bannon. All the details from his new book, well, not all of them, I'm not going to spoil the whole publication, but a big chunk next.



COATES: A West Wing war, a toxic presence. We're getting new details tonight from Jared Kushner's upcoming memoir. It goes behind the scenes in the early days of the Trump White House revealing intense clashes between Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, of course, and Steve Bannon.

I want to bring in CNN's political commentators Scott Jennings and Maria Cardona as well. I'm glad to see both of you this evening. Scott, let me begin with you. Because look, Kushner describes Steve

Bannon saying to him, quote, "Jared, right now, you're the one undermining the president's agenda, and if you go against me, I will break you in half. Don't f with me." Now, look, his words, I tried to do my best impersonation, but it didn't ring true. Sorry about that.

We knew it was a toxic culture and hearing it from Jared is pretty something that's interesting, but what do you think about all of this coming out in this way?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm going to answer your question, Laura. But if you don't mind, I'd like to take 10 seconds ask, say thank you to everyone in the United States who has opened their hearts and their wallets for the people of eastern Kentucky. As you know, that's where I come from on the shows, and in eastern Kentucky we have horrific flooding. Several people have died. There are a number of places you can donate. A lot of people have already done it. So, I just -- I just wanted to say thanks to people who have looked in on the people of Appalachia.

Regarding Kushner and Bannon, is anyone surprised that this was the way this relationship was? I mean, can you think of two people who were more different coming into their jobs, and obviously, both had the president's ear at one time or the other.

It was interesting obviously Kushner outlasted Bannon, and Bannon didn't last long at all, ask and of course he's now facing his own legal troubles in the aftermath. I mean, in a professional environment you would hope people would treat each other with more respect than to say I'm going to break you in half.

But then again, I don't think Mr. Bannon has ever distinguished himself as much of a professional in any of the setting. So, not surprising. I'm interested to hear the rest of Jared's book. Obviously, he was there from start to finish, so I'm sure he's going to have some interesting anecdotes to tell us of what was going on behind the scenes.

COATES: I mean, I wondered, Maria, just the idea of how forthcoming he really is going to be. I mean, I hear memoir. I want to hear the full truth, nothing but the whole truth, so help me God. That's just the, I mean, the lawyer in me.


But I wonder just how far he's willing to go in the comments. But so far, we know that he writes that he was even urged by Trump's first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to call The New York Times about a story that Priebus and Bannon were kicked off of Air Force One.

And I guess when he did, Bannon exploded saying, quote, "how effing dare you leak on me. If you leak out on me, I can leak out on you 28 ways from Sunday," which is frankly a popular phrase that I think my great aunt used to say. But what's Kushner trying to accomplish by revealing all of this? MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I asked myself that same

thing, Laura, when I saw news that this memoir was coming out. How is it going to be as forthcoming as you say one should be in a memoir if it's worth reading. And I guess the question is, is this even worth reading and how much is he going to piss off his father-in-law.

But more than that, Laura, I think what this shows and Scott is right, is anybody really surprised? But more than that, this is going to show just how pernicious and nefarious, and dangerous the administration was with Donald Trump at the helm, and how much more dangerous it will be and how much of a danger it will be to our democracy if him and his family and anyone around him are able to get anywhere close to the Oval Office in 2024.

This memoir is going to come out before the midterm elections, I believe, and if so, it's also going to coincide with supposedly when Donald Trump is going to announce his second run for office for 2024. All of these things, I think, are going to underscore to the American people the danger and toxicity of Donald Trump of yet again nominated for the Republican Party. I can't imagine that Scott Jennings is excited about that in any way, shape, or form.

COATES: Well, let me say, Scott, I want you to react to that very notion. Are you excited in any way, shape, or form?

JENNINGS: No, I mean, look, I've been quite clear. I think the Republicans should nominate someone else. By the way, Maria, I also think the Democrats should nominate someone else. I mean, the American people are dying -- the American people right now are like the cat who's always trying to get away from Pepe Le Pew, recoiling at the thought of a rematch from these two guys in 2024.

Both parties ought to go a different direction. But yes, Republicans get a different nominee because you all have a better chance to win. That's my view.

COATES: Are you kidding me? You didn't do a French access mentioning Pepe Le Pew? I mean, what is this if not a Friday night, really? I need you to go the extra mile and say like most --


CARDONA: I'd like to hear that.

COATES: There you go. I would too. But before you do that, and the next answer can be that very thing, Maria, look, I want to talk about President Biden. But it was -- it was a bad week for the economy. But his administration actually had some wins on the climate and economic package, the CHIPS bill as well. But the question of course is, can they sell that to the voters?

Because it's no secret that messaging has been a problem for the Democratic Party in terms of getting the buy-in and the recognition of voters to know that the wins equal good for them.

CARDONA: Well, I think what we're seeing, Laura, in this bill, this deal that was just announced between Schumer and Manchin to pass a fantastic package that will help lower the deficit, that will help lower prescription drugs, that will help lower the cost of health insurance for 13 million Americans, that will help fight the energy -- the climate crisis and help with our energy issues in this country.

That -- all of that is good news for the administration, but I also think what you're seeing, Laura, is a decoupling of Americans where you would traditionally see them connecting the approval rating for the president to how they will vote in the midterm elections.

I believe they are feeling that there is much more of a danger, much more of a concern of a conservative extremist MAGA loving Republican agenda that will be forthcoming if they give control of Congress to Republicans, both in the House and the Senate, and that's why you're seeing now holes that are adding to the margin for Democrats.

The Senate is now leaning Democrat. The independent voters are now leaning Democrat.


CARDONA: And so, I think you're seeing a place where you might not see the traditional historic outcome in a midterm election of a president's first term, and what Democrats need to continue to do is underscore what they will be working on with the economy and how every single thing that they do they get a slap in the face and a closed door from Republicans.


COATES: Well, we have to go, but I, you know, one other thing you're talking about, there's quite a gamble going on right now trying to back on the Democratic side those who are believed to be the extremist and MAGA candidates. I wonder how it's going to pan out in the end on all these things.

Hey, Scott, thank you for being here and thank you for thinking of Kentucky, we're thinking of you as well.

CARDONA: Thanks, Laura.

JENNINGS: Thanks, Laura.

COATES: Russia plundering gold, exploiting minors to help fund Putin's war in Ukraine. CNN's exclusive reporting from Sudan is next.


COATES: Tonight, in an exclusive report, CNN can reveal how Russia stopped Democratic change over 6,000 miles away. In Sudan, a country in the northeast of Africa just as its people had successfully toppled one of the longest standing African dictators through peaceful street protests and why is that?

[22:40:02] Well, Sudan is one of the biggest exporters of gold in the world, and Russia has been illegally exploiting and smuggling this resource from Sudan for years, manipulating vital government and non-government institutions to secure this golden financial pipeline.

CNN's chief international investigative correspondent Nima Elba -- Elbagir -- excuse me, and her team traveled to the north of Sudan to show how Russia leverages the Sudanese military government and how it's using front companies to circumnavigate U.S. sanctions to hold on to the gold illegally moving from Sudan's capital, Khartoum, to Russia.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Deep in Sudan's gold country, miners toil in the searing heat, barely surviving in what should be one of Africa's richest countries providing gold for a war a continent away. We investigate a force more powerful than Sudan's government, controlling its gold.

For a millennia, Sudan has produced some of the most sought after gold in the world, and Putin's private army, the notorious paramilitary group Wagner knows it. Sudan's government is denying Wagner's existence in country but we're not buying it, and we've come to investigate.

Wagner's tentacles stretch right across Africa. We've discovered some of its most notorious operatives are working on Sudan. Evgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, Mikhail Potepkin, Prigozhin's head of Sudan's ops, and Aleksandr Sergeevich Kuznetsov, Wagner's key enforcer, previously convicted of kidnap and robbery, working with this man, Sudanese general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka, Hemedti, in a quid pro quo for training and weaponry.

We traveled 200 miles north from the capital Khartoum to gold country to take a closer look at Wagner's main moneymaker, artisanal gold. Miners bring rocks they extract here to be processed. Eighty-five Sudan's gold is produced artisanally.

This right here, it may not look like much. This is what's left after the rocks that the miners have brought in is milled. Now, they've taken what they can out of it, but this gets sold, and when it's properly processed with someone who has superior technology, you can make 10 times what those miners over there are making.

Ten times more money without any of the back breaking work. And the only foreign processing plant operational in Sudan is Wagner's Meroe Gold. Despite a Sudanese law limiting ownership to locals. Also troubling, Meroe Gold was sanctioned two years ago by the United States for exploiting Sudan's natural resources and spreading their malign influence around the globe.

According to the Sudanese government they officially ceased operations but they are still here, still evading sanctions. We verified their location with coordinates provided by Sudanese anticorruption investigators and head there to see for ourselves. As we approach the red flag of the former Soviet Union blows in the wind, increasingly used by Russian nationalists, it brazenly marks the Meroe Gold compound. A Russian tanker sits next to it.

We get to the entrance and decide to ask a few questions, but not before we turn on our covert cameras.

ELBAGIR (on screen text): Is this the Russian company?

UNKNOWN (on screen text): Yes.

ELBAGIR: Well, that's convenient, they've just confirmed the Russians are at this location.

ELBAGIR (on screen text): We are journalists from CNN. I'd like to see the Russian manager. We'd like to ask him some questions.

There's a black pickup approaching.

UNKNOWN (on screen text): He's coming in that car.

ELBAGIR: OK. The guards just confirmed that the Russian manager is in that black pickup and he's on his way to us.

A Russian van races to the office but no one seems to be coming over. Seems the Russian manager has changed his mind. But others turn up instead.

ELBAGIR (on screen text): I'm sure you've already been shown our permission.

UNKNOWN (on screen text): But we are a Sudanese company. It's a company called Al Solag.

ELBAGIR: They claim this pond is Sudanese owned and is called Al Solag. Remember that name. It's important. Al Solag. We head off the property to do some more filming, but we're followed. Security approaches, they want us to stop.

This is public ground.


ELBAGIR: This is public ground. Why is your van stopping here? Trying to get us to move on. They're taking pictures of us, of our license plates.

The reason they're so nervous, Al Solag is a front for the Russian company Meroe Gold. Wagner is still operating illegally, a foreign company pretending to be Sudanese to evade U.S. sanctions.


We obtained their registration documents to prove it. The document on the left is from Meroe Gold, the one on the right Al Solag. These dates represent complaints made in employment codes against Meroe Gold. These ones from Al Solag are the same. Under Sudanese law when a company's holdings are transferred, so are any judgments against it. Here you can see the judgments against both companies are identical.

All they've done is change the name. Wagner hiding in plain sight to avoid U.S. sanctions and keep the financial pipeline flowing back to Moscow and its war on Ukraine. A dangerous business to delve into.

Since we've arrived in country, I've been informed by sources of threats that they believe to be credible against me. They say that's what happens here when you look too closely at Russia's business dealings. We're off to meet one of those sources and he's asked that I come alone.

UNKNOWN: Meroe Gold is a front for the Russians, specifically for the forces of Wagner that are working to exploit gold in Sudan and its export. It's a front, it's not a company. It extracts gold from tailings and it buys gold from Sudanese artisanal miners. That's not legal. Because the law says that any gold producer is supposed to report the quantity it produces to the central bank and to the ministry of mining and that does not happen.

ELBAGIR: Inside Sudan's central bank a whistleblower snapped this photo of a computer screen showing official production in 2021 at 49.7 ton, 32.7 tons are unaccounted for by the central bank. But the real figure we're told by whistleblowers could be over 220 tons. That's around $13.4 billion worth of gold a year that's being stolen from Sudan. How has this happened?

Three years ago, the Sudanese people successfully overthrew Africa's second longest ruling dictator Omar al-Bashir. Less than two years later, the military staged its own coup, sweeping aside civilian rule, and they did this, we're told, with Wagner's support in exchange for gold.

This man had a front row seat to Russia's machinations and has evidence to prove it stood to gain by supporting the Sudanese military's coup. Under threat of assassination, he's been in hiding for the last nine months, moving from safe house to safe house.

UNKNOWN: The Russians and Sudanese officers saw the civilians in the government as an obstacle to their plan. The official anticorruption task force wasn't caving to pressure or threats or even bribery. The armed forces were thought to be complicit in the smuggling of gold by the Russians and it was raised with them.

ELBAGIR: Do you blame Russia for the death of democracy here in Sudan?

UNKNOWN: Definitely. Russia carries the majority of the blame for the still birthing of Sudan's democracy.

ELBAGIR: Just days later his nephew was killed by state actors trying to stop a pro-democracy demonstration. In the two weeks we've been in Sudan investigating Russia's illegal gold mining, 10 people were killed protesting for change.

It's not just on the battlefields of Ukraine that Russia is spilling blood. Here too, there is a human cost, the cost of Russia's support of Sudan's generals in return for its gold.


ELBAGIR: We reached out to key Russian and Sudanese government offices as well as representatives for Evgeny Prigozhin, and we didn't receive any response to our request for comment. The Sudanese pro- democracy movement, though, has already begun announcing plans for a million-man march as they're calling it this weekend, Laura, to say -- to express, they say their upset at the revelations around Russia's exploitation of Sudan's gold.

COATES: Nima, your reporting is unbelievable.

ELBAGIR: Thank you.

COATES: It's mind-blowing to think about this happening. Truly excellent. You've gotten a response from the State Department. I wonder what are they saying?

ELBAGIR: We have, and it was very key for us to reach out to the U.S. because the U.S. sanctions are what are being evaded in this instance, and what they told us they essentially confirmed our reporting, saying that they themselves were monitoring this situation and continuing to share with Sudan's generals what they believe to be Russia's malign influence in the region.

So really practically it doesn't actually sound like they are doing much or even that they are currently able to do much, Laura. And that's very worrying for people on the ground in Sudan because the stakes are so high for them there.

COATES: I mean, just seeing the protests and the consequences and the killing in the streets, unbelievable to see. I mean, the consequences are very real, and all of this is helping shield Russia from the impact of western sanctions, and you go through that so thoughtfully in your piece. Did the U.S. drop the ball here?


ELBAGIR: Absolutely. I really don't think there's think doubt on that. This has been something that's been years in the making from the perspective of President Putin. He began this project, this sanctions fortification project in the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea in 2014. There is no way that there weren't flashing red lights for the U.S. and for the global community that there would be ramifications to allow Putin to create this get out of jail fund.

And it's not just in Sudan. It's in the Central African Republic. It's in Mali. The tentacles of Wagner spread across Africa and the U.S., really, has to question how it was allowed to happen and the consequences are being felt by the U.S. on the battlefields of Ukraine, but also in the streets of Sudan, Laura.

COATES: Nima, as always, your reporting is so revelatory and profound. Thank you for helping us to better understand what is happening across the globe. ELBAGIR: Thank you.

COATES: We'll be right back.



COATES: Will Smith publicly apologizing to Chris Rock today for doing this back in March. Smith walking on stage and slapping Rock after he made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Now he says this.


WILL SMITH, ACTOR: So, I will -- I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I'm here whenever you're ready to talk.


COATES: Tonight, Rock joking that he was smacked by shrug Smith after Smith's apology, apparently.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.